By Tim Sullivan

To every thing these is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven.
(Ecclesiastes 3:1)


To everything there is a season. Some seasons are of ease and others are of struggle. Life certainly has its ups and downs. But God desires that we know true contentment in all seasons, regardless of the circumstances that surround us.

Philippians 4:11-13:
Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Not many of us can truly say, “In whatsoever state I am, I know how to be content.” We may recognize we ought to be content, but we don’t know how to be content. Like the Children of Israel of old, most people find it much easier to complain than to be content. Most people, rich and poor, are always looking for more.

When Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me,” he was speaking specifically of knowing how “to be full and to be hungry, how to abound and to suffer need.” This is a great lesson in Christian living, and the secret of a contented life.

Paul said he had learned to be content. This statement alone has much to teach us. Contentment does not come “naturally.” It must be learned.

Before you can ever understand how to be content “in whatsoever state I am,” you must recognize a fundamental truth about riches and poverty.

Proverbs 22:2:
The rich and poor meet together: the LORD is the maker of them all.

In this world, the Lord is the maker of the poor and the rich. There is no secret formula that guarantees wealth to all.

Ecclesiastes 9:11:
I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

If the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong; if the bread is not to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, there must be something else that is being tested. “To every thing these is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” To what purpose do we experience such ups and downs in life? What is God trying to teach us? What does he want us to learn?

More than anything else, God wants us to trust him. We cannot love a God we do not trust. We cannot serve a God we do not love.

Luke 16:13:
No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

This is the greatest challenge in Christian living. This is a lesson God will continually test you on. Where do you put your trust? Do you trust in God or do you trust in money? He will test you with times of need. He will test you with abundance.

There are two times when Christians are most likely to forsake God — when things are going very well, and when they are going very poorly.

Understand this, and you will understand why we need to learn how to be abased and how to abound.

Proverbs 30:8-9:
Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me:
9 Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.

The man gorged on his riches will deny the Lord, saying, “God did nothing for me. I have done all this for myself! Why should I give him anything?” The man blinded by the things he lacks will take the name of the Lord in vain and steal. “God didn’t help me in my time of need! Why should I give to him?” Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? God knows us better than we know ourselves!

I Know How to Abound

Perhaps you have never even considered that God would test your faith by giving you abundance. But it is one thing to abound. It is quite another to know how to abound.

Let’s be honest. Most of us would much rather learn how to abound than to learn how to be abased. But it is not as easy as you might think.

It is God’s prerogative to give a man riches and wealth. It isn’t a reward. It is a gift. It is also a test.

Ecclesiastes 5:19:
Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God.

Ecclesiastes 6:2:
A man to whom God hath given riches, wealth, and honour, so that he wanteth nothing for his soul of all that he desireth, yet God giveth him not power to eat thereof, but a stranger eateth it: this is vanity, and it is an evil disease.

What is the “power” that one man has to enjoy his portion that the other has not? It is a matter of trust.

The Bible teaches us that the love of money is the root of all evil. It is amazing how many Christians spend so much time praying for the one thing that has the power to ruin them.

1 Timothy 6:10:
For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

Many people put their trust in wealth as their deliverer, their strong city. Their hope is to have enough money to buy their way out of any situation.

Proverbs 18:10-11:
The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.
10 The rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and as an high wall in his own conceit.

Money provides only the illusion of safety and security. The deceitfulness of riches is that it promises what it cannot deliver. Money promises to comfort you and protect you, and then it slips right through your fingers.

Proverbs 23:5:
Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.

Haggai 1:6:
Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes.

The only durable riches come from God.

Proverbs 8:18-19:
Riches and honour are with me; yea, durable riches and righteousness.
19 My fruit is better than gold, yea, than fine gold; and my revenue than choice silver.

It is the deceitfulness of worldly riches that can choke the Word out of your life.

Matthew 13:22:
He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.

Solomon — a man who knew what he was talking about — warned of riches that are to our own hurt.

Ecclesiastes 5:10-13:
He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity.
11 When goods increase, they are increased that eat them: and what good is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes?
12 The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep.
13 There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt.

The pursuit of wealth is a sure trap, certain to cause you to err from the faith.

1 Timothy 6:9:
But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.

There is nothing that will cause a man to compromise his values faster than the pursuit of a quick buck.

Proverbs 28:20, 22:
A faithful man shall abound with blessings: but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent.

22 He that hasteth to be rich hath an evil eye, and considereth not that poverty shall come upon him.

He that hastens to be rich (whatever the reason, whether to give to himself or to others) will judge every situation only by its potential to bring a quick return. That, my friend, is an evil eye.

How then are we to abound? What are we to do when increase comes? The challenge is not to set our heart, our trust, upon the increase.

Psalm 62:10:
Trust not in oppression, and become not vain in robbery: if riches increase, set not your heart upon them.

Proverbs 11:28:
He that trusteth in his riches shall fall: but the righteous shall flourish as a branch.

1 Timothy 6:17:
Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;

God does not instruct the rich man to forfeit his riches. Nor does He want him to hoard them. God charges him to be not highminded (“I’m wealthier than you because I’m a better believer”), nor to put his trust in uncertain riches, but in the God who enriched him to begin with. God wants him to be rich in good works as well, ready to distribute what God has given him.

1 Timothy 6:18-19:
That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate;
19 Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.

Proverbs 13:7:
There is that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing: there is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches.

Philippians 4:17:
Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.

God wants our eyes on the eternal riches that are in Christ. He wants our reward to be full. To know how to abound is to know that no matter how much money there is, you still cannot and do not put your trust in it. Your trust is only in God.

I Know How to Be Abased

Modern theologians like to preach that for a Christian to be hungry or to suffer need indicates a lack of faith. This contradicts the message of the Word of God. Paul did not say “I know how not to be abased.” Being abased was one of the “all things” Paul said he could do “through Christ which strengtheneth me.”

The “fairy tale” some Christians like to hear is that if you have faith, you will never be abased. The reality Paul taught is that Christ will strengthen you in your time of need.

Just as we must learn how to abound, we must also learn how to be abased. Anyone can be a “fair weather Christian.” It is the person you are when things are stormy that reveals your Christian character! Where is your faith then? Are you fearful and afraid, unable to see God beyond the clouds? Or are you the kind who gets mad at God, just because he expects you to give him the “benefit of the doubt” once in a while? If you are, it is time to repent, my friend.

How do we learn to be content in times of need? It is a matter of proper judgment and right values.

Proverbs 15:16:
Better is little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble therewith.

Proverbs 16:8:
Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues without right.

Proverbs 28:6:
Better is the poor that walketh in his uprightness, than he that is perverse in his ways, though he be rich.

Before God will ever trust you with much, he will test you with little.

Luke 16:10-12:
He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.
11 If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?
12 And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own?

Faithful stewardship is required in a servant of God. If God gives you ten dollars to do a job, and you waste it on something else, he is not obligated to bail you out of trouble with another ten bucks!

Proverbs 18:9:
He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster.

1 Corinthians 4:2:
Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.


It is not poverty or wealth that reveals your worth.

Luke 12:15:
And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.

The person you are in times of abasement or abundance defines your character. Paul said he had learned how to be abased and how to abound. In every situation, in every circumstance, Paul put his trust in God.

There is no greater poverty than the absence of hope. There are no greater riches than the true riches of Christ. Know this, and you can find contentment in whatsoever state you find yourself.

This is the secret to a contented life:

1 Timothy 6:6-8:
But godliness with contentment is great gain.
7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.



From the August 2000 issue of The Vine & Branches